Agricultural Researchers Data Practices Project

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is one of Tennessee’s two land grant universities (the other is Tennessee State University in Nashville). The purpose of the land grant university, according to the Morrill Acts, is to conduct research in agricultural (among other things) and then to disseminate the results of that research to the state. In the case of agricultural research, the University conducts research in its College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) and the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA). I am not sure how these two entities are related, but somewhere in the mix there is the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service. The Extension Service places agricultural specialists around the state in each county and provides expertise to farmers and the general public on issues such as soil quality, crop growing, and livestock raising. The information these Extension Agents provide to the public is ostensibly information that has been distilled from the research at CASNR, UTIA, and the Experiment Station(s?). This information is not scientific data directly from research project at these entities, but is the practical application of this data. Farmers do not need to see the data collected in these research experiments, just how it applies to them and helps them grow their crops or raise their livestock better.

I am working on a research project with Peter Fernandez, Miriam Davis, and Shea Swauger (at CSU) to learn about the data practices of the researchers at CASNR and UTIA. We want to know what they do with regards to data from their research projects, such as how do they manage it, do they share it, and with whom? We hope that this study will give us some insights into how these data practices might help or harm the mission of the land grant university. If the point of the land grant university is to provide practical applications to the public based on the research conducted at the institution, then data management and sharing practices could have some implications there. That’s what we hope to accomplish in this research project. We’re not sure where it will lead, but this is going to be a baseline study that we hope will lead to future projects.

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